Huguenot High School (Richmond, VA)
Classification: Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 4, Region B
2018-19 overall record: 12-13
Well, the October breeze has indeed started to pick up, indicating that this 2019-20 high school season is approaching closer and closer. Only a couple of weeks remain until teams start holding tryouts to figure out who will compose of their respective squads for the lengthy winter. In my primary designated area of Richmond, VA for coverage, I’m especially interested to see how public school play will unfold once season games begin. Last year, the class of 2019 controlled much of the action as area standouts; the majority advanced on to play at the collegiate level. Now, however, there’s an opportunity for other upperclassmen to step up and I’m sure many plan to keep an eye out for the 2020 successors. One thing to know: there’s a pretty fair amount of notable returners amongst the 804. Huguenot High School could be used, example-wise, as the Falcons only graduated two seniors in 2018-19.
What We Know
- Minimal above-average height within Huguenot’s varsity program both last season and from what I saw on my Wednesday open gym visit may not cause immediate head-turning. Regardless, I’ve never deemed the Falcons’ physical attributes as a stand-out team trait, but rather what’s inside of their players. When I initially scouted them back in the 2018 Meadowbrook High School Fall League, Huguenot’s toughness drew the first impression. Fast forward to today, and that perception hasn’t changed in the least bit. In what they may lack in size, the veteran core makes up in big hearts to fearlessly battle against any and every surrounding opponent. Like the quote says, “it’s hard to beat the person who never gives up.”
- Huguenot’s best example of resilience actually came around Christmas time last year. Competing in the ‘Richmond Times-Dispatch Invitational Tournament’ (TDIT), a December event that occurs yearly, the team would find themselves put against Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA) in the tournament’s opening round. Trinity entered as the TDIT reigning champions for two consecutive seasons but it quickly became apparent that Huguenot could care less about what success the past had brought. A back-and-forth dogfight would ultimately see the Falcons ending up victorious in an 88-85 win on Trinity’s home floor (12/19/18). The win became one of the biggest local upsets of 2018-19, ended Trinity’s remarkable home game winning streak, and gave Huguenot motivation to fight their way up for a tournament championship appearance. They battled hard but would lose in the title game to Collegiate School (Richmond, VA), 63-43.
- On Wednesday afternoon, Huguenot’s coaches had the guys start off by training their bodies for over 45 minutes before any type of basketball drills took place. They ran out for some conditioning on the track and then followed with lower body exercises, using weight plates. After rolling the balls out for some skill work of finishing and shooting off the catch, the coaching staff put their guys through a ‘three-stop drill’ that I particularly liked. It’s a defensive-minded challenge, which rewards three successful stops with a point, and proves beneficial to how well Huguenot’s perimeter players can guard on-ball. A stretch of 4v4 shell-drill competition and 3v3 play finished out the workout’s final 35 minutes.
- In my eyes, team defense has and still stands as Huguenot’s strongest point. Their guards and wings know how to bother ball-handlers all night long and finish with a good amount of steals each time I watch them play. After noticing the emphasis placed on that side of the ball for most of Wednesday’s session, especially in the shell-drill period, it now makes even more sense why they succeed. Whenever you mix attentiveness, grit, and quickness all into one, collective defense should always have a chance to shine. On the other side of things, however, I feel the biggest need for Huguenot is to show they can shoot it better as a whole. There’s a couple of guys who can notch three-point baskets at a fairly consistent rate but others will also need to knock down the open looks when they commonly happen. Perimeter shooting could perhaps play the biggest role in determining how unpredictable the Falcons’ offense becomes.
Who to Watch
Jordan Parham ’20 – Being the best sharpshooter back on the roster, and one of the area’s top snipers, Parham enjoyed a very strong junior season at the two-guard spot. His nightly averages of 17.9 ppg, three rpg, 3.2 apg, and 2.2 spg proved no coincidence why he earned accolades of the team’s personal ‘Player of the Year’ and a VHSL All-Region 4B first teamer. The 5’10” guard lights it up from distance better than any other Falcon returner and has become a bigger threat this offseason in putting it on the floor. Now, he looks improved with crafty finishes that complement his lethal shooting. Defensively, Parham reads passing lanes well and can pick opponents’ pockets for steal after steal…transitioning them into easy layups. The smooth guard gained an offer from Virginia Union University before last season opened up and has the chance to expand that recruitment if he handles things the right way as a senior.
Osmand Harris III ’20 – He’s busy on the gridiron right now in this time of football but Harris III should again play a big role for Huguenot when he returns to the court. I couldn’t believe my ears last season when I found out it was his first official season of high school basketball. The headband-wearing guard shows no mercy in his relentless style and can produce wherever the team calls upon him for matchup purposes. Harris III does best in penetrating his way through the lane for finishes and drawn fouls. Averaging 12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 2.3 spg this past year, I’d classify him as another one of the team’s best go-to options if they need someone to give their offense a spark. Some may recall his coming-out party in the TDIT final four rounds; scoring 15 points in the championship and making a selection on the All-Tournament team.
Kevin Gayles ’20 – One of the more impressive undersized forwards I saw in Richmond public school hoops last year, Gayle’s returning presence gives great news for Huguenot’s interior defense. I don’t know how he does it at only 6’1” but the senior protects the rim exceptionally well with power. He’s a strong-shouldered prospect who can be used to best describe how the Falcons play with will over size. On the rebounding end, Gayles performed greatly for the team and showed he can become a frequent double-double guy. You don’t see many players at that height bring a tough inside game likewise to the Huguenot vet. Regardless, he sticks to his role well and holds all sorts of value that can help achieve wins. Gayles averaged 11.6 ppg and 9.1 rpg in 2018-19.
Tabriz Allen ’20 – He had a solid junior year as more of a role player but Allen’s appeared to have made strong advances in his offensive arsenal heading into this final go-around. Competing in the Meadowbrook Fall League again this preseason, I thought the 6’0” guard recently had the best Week 1 performance (9/14) on Huguenot’s roster. He erupted to score many buckets off of the dribble and also garnered paint touches for made plays. Allen stood out again in the latter during Wednesday’s showing, as I’d say he’s most dangerous when finishing past opponents with a good touch. His court vision also deserves some recognition…I watched him throw several nice dimes to cutting teammates during competitive play. Right now, the guard can clearly use his body well to split double-teams and create space from defenders but his ball-handling could use some sharpening up. It’s one of the only true things to pick at in his offensive game, honestly.
Marcus Leisure ’21 – Another captain from this past season, alongside with Parham, Leisure earned the privilege as a youngster and showed he could definitely hold his own against older competition. He would go on to post nightly stats of 7.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, and two spg as a sophomore. Now, I’m sure fans are excited to have the shifty Falcon back for two more seasons and his confidence appears even higher than before. As a 5’9” shooting guard, Leisure has a good enough handle to create off of the bounce in an effective way. He had a great shooting and defensive display on Wednesday; knocking down pull-up jumpers from all three levels and playing his man tightly on-ball. Huguenot will need that two-way style to continue from him, as he has quick hands to collect a number of steals similar to Parham’s strategy.
A Word from the Head Honcho
“It’s a work in progress right now for us but we’re getting there by taking daily steps. We won’t be very big in size again so it’ll take a lot of fight from our guys, each game. There’s seniors, juniors, and maybe even some sophomores who could make the cut. We’re just trying to prove to everyone what we can do.”
– Head Coach Ksaan Brown (3rd season)
Frankly, I think this Huguenot team has the chance to build upon their past winter season in noteworthy fashion. Returning experience has no choice but to give one feelings of optimism, even if it’s the slightest bit, and the program essentially brings back all of their core pieces and top scorers. That being said, Huguenot’s team defense will likely continue to set the tone of everything. It’s one of their special traits that can really get into the heads of casual ball-handlers and change the course of games. Sustaining prowess on that side of the ball, along with perimeter success, should give Coach Brown and his crew a chance to make their postseason carry on longer.
Unseen hours in the gym continue on before the Falcons decide who they will prey upon first…